The first recorded sighting of eucalyptus trees occurred in the 17th century by explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman on the island of Tasmania. In his journal in 1642, Tasman wrote about witnessing " . . .two trees about 2 1/2 fathoms in thickness, (measuring) from 60-65 ft. from the ground to the lower branches. . . . " Additionally, the tree has been an important part of the Australian Aborigines' lives for thousands of years. Introduced to the Western United States in the 19th century, eucalyptus trees are so prevalent that it's hard to imagine what many Western states would be like without the signature burlesque trunk, pungent antiseptic odor and shade cover qualities of the tree. In addition to providing shade and landscaping, eucalyptus trees are excellent sources of firewood.
Eucalyptus burns bright and hot, exuding an aromatic fragrance as it burns. It is on par with oak as firewood because of the eucalyptus' density. The best eucalyptus firewood comes from trees at least 10 years old. According to Robert L. Santos at California State University, Stanislaus, a common misconception is that eucalyptus does not generate as much heat as oak and orchard trees. In reality, eucalyptus burns as well other woods, provided the wood has moisture content between 10 and 25 percent.
Santos also notes that it is necessary to split eucalyptus wood soon after initially cutting it. Eucalyptus not split after initial cutting may become too tough to separate into manageable pieces for firewood.
Eucalyptus trees absorb tremendous amounts of water for growth. Therefore, eucalyptus wood that is unseasoned and "green" does not burn well. Proper drying is necessary for eucalyptus firewood. Adequate seasoning time depends on the dryness of the climate, age and density of the wood.
Eucalyptus cords (a unit term for firewood) are more expensive than varieties of wood such as fir and pine. Nevertheless, you get more fire for your buck: A cord of eucalyptus may cost more, but it burns slower and more efficiently.
For over 100 years, many Californians have called eucalyptus the "dirty" tree because of its perceived wildfire-causing properties. The nickname is well earned; the oil in eucalyptus trees -- especially branches, bark and leaves -- contain flammable oils. These flammable oils contribute to wildfire hazards and to the tree's heat as it is burned as firewood.
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